Visit any café, bar or restaurant, chances are that you will find many young people crouched over on their phones, totally oblivious to their surroundings. Though they want to spend quality time with their loved ones, most end up being immersed in their digital worlds. It’s worth pondering -- why do people even bother to meet each other, when the only thing they do on meeting is stare at their phones?
Over the past few years, it feels like the separation between our digital and physical worlds has blurred considerably. Our real-life personality and the digital representation of it seem to have merged into one. By friends, we mean our Facebook friends. By groups, we mean WhatsApp groups. By talking, we mean chatting. By listening, we mean nothing. Nobody listens on the social media. How can we? When we are busy liking, commenting, tweeting and reposting.
Still, let’s give credit where it’s due. We live in a world where friends once are friends forever. We have heard stories from our parents about school and college friends with whom they’ve now lost touch. Not us. We will be able to preserve our friendships through our lifetimes. Thanks to the social networks, it is much easier now to keep in touch with those separated by physical distances. It has also brought families closer, through shared WhatsApp jokes and photos. Now we can share experiences, in spite of being miles apart. It just happens that those experiences are digital.
A majority of the youngsters who responded to the HT-MaRS Youth Survey 2016 agree to this: A high 67% said they don’t agree with the fact that extensive use of gadgets is making India’s young unfriendly; only 33% thought otherwise.
Sure, the connected world comes with its own pitfalls. The cost of giving attention to the person across that touchscreen is that you are unable to give attention to the person sitting next to you. A real-world conversation takes a lot more social effort than a two-line chat having cute emojis. And then, digital conversations offer you a convenience unparalleled in the real world. These factors make the digital world feel much more interesting and deserving of our time than the person close by. Ultimately, we succumb to the temptation and bury ourselves in our smartphones.
As first-class digital citizens, we should be self-aware of the effect our digital world is having on us and our relationships. It’s a difficult task given the allure of that enchanting world that exists beyond that wall of glass. But it is the only way to ensure that the tools meant to serve us do not become our masters.
Can you judge a person by his favourite gadget? Take our poll here
Read more Youth Survey stories here.